I do not recall where I picked up Chant and be Happy…The Story of the Hare Krishna Mantra, based on the teachings of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda. I do remember that it was free, and since I was an obsessive Beatles fan in the early eighties I managed to pick up two copies. This is a first printing from 1982. Years ago I gave my second copy to a colleague at work whose favourite Beatle was, like mine, George Harrison. Yet in spite of the book’s brevity (108 pages) I never read it, even though its cover announces a new exclusive interview with Harrison.
I know exactly why I never bothered to read it: as with Lennon ’69, I was afraid it’d be bogged down with religious dogma. With the first third devoted to the Harrison interview, I didn’t want to face the next two thirds of mantra history. Yet, as with Lennon ’69, I was pleasantly surprised at how readable it was.
The interviewer, Mukunda Goswami, is a Krishna devotee and friend of Harrison. He was familiar with George’s musical output and I had the impression that if he and George did not share the same spiritual path, he would not have been able to ask some of the questions that he did. This lengthy interview may have taken place in 1981–or at the latest, 1982–as George makes reference to his Somewhere in England album. An interview from this time could have been less than a year after John Lennon’s murder–and George wasn’t doing any interviews then. I can’t imagine any interviewer given access to George would ask “Where do you think John’s soul is now?”, yet Mukunda did, and George replied:
“I should hope that he’s in a good place. He had the understanding, though, that each soul reincarnates until it becomes completely pure, and that each soul finds its own level, designated by reactions to its actions in this and previous lives.”
In keeping with the subject matter of this book, Mukunda asked how George was introduced to Krishna consciousness and the Hare Krishna mantra. George talked about recording the mantra with the Radha Krishna Temple (London), for release on Apple Records. Mukunda also asked George about his albums All Things Must Pass and Living in the Material World, both of which feature songs with religious themes, such as “My Sweet Lord”, “Awaiting on You All”, “The Lord Loves the One (That Loves the Lord)” and the latter album’s title track. This book provided a rare treat indeed into George’s assessment of his work a decade after releasing it.
The remaining two thirds of the book told the history of Swami Prabhupāda’s trip the the US and then bringing Krishna consciousness to England. The Hare Krishna mantra is centuries old, but in the sixteenth century Śrī Caitanya founded the modern-day Hare Krishna movement. We learned about the life of Śrī Caitanya as well as the science of mantra meditation and the benefits of and techniques for chanting. It was all written in an entertaining and readable style–no boring dogma or theory as I had expected.